Thursday, May 3, 2012

Birthday Bundt

Did you know I have a day job?

Oh my, yes.  I teach American government to college kids.  The great thing is that I love it almost as much as I love writing.  I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

I remember once upon a time I thought the life of a writer was quite glamorous.  Now I know better.  There's a lot to recommend it (wonderful readers, getting paid to play make-believe, being able to work in your jammies), it's not all dreamy contemplation of the written word.  Witness this quite lovely clip of Meryl Streep as Mary Fisher in She Devil:

Someone recently commented that people have similar misconceptions about my day job (college professor), likely because of movies featuring ivy-covered walls and men in tweed, pipes clenched between their teeth, telling kids to rip up their texts and learn from life and blah, blah, blah.

It's nothing like that at all.

First, I don't lecture to 35 young adults who are all completely absorbed in what I say.  Rather, I have nearly 600 students this semester, and many of them probably couldn't tell you my name.  And those ivy covered walls?  Try ongoing asbestos abatement.

But just as there are tons of unexpected pleasures associated with being a writer, there are tons of unexpected pleasures associated with teaching at a big ol' public university.  While we don't have the gorgeous old buildings you see in the movies, my office is in Sage Hall, and it's a perfectly lovely room with actual windows (two!) and doves (not pigeons) who perch on my sills.  I also get to enjoy my own personal inside joke: my office used to belong to a guy named Warren Watson, and I have kept his name plate.  It's silly, but it makes me laugh to think of the Watson dynasty.

Sage Hall - no ivy, but not bad.

My crazy-messy desk, complete with gorgeous i-Mac

The Watson legacy lives on in Sage Hall
And while my relationship with many of my students remains pretty impersonal, others find a special place in my heart and never move out.  Right now, my kiddos are knocking my socks off with a great project they did rewriting the constitution after the zombie apocalypse.  Seriously, they did a great job.  Makes me about burst with pride.

I also have fabulous co-workers.  Writing is a solitary profession, so having a cluster of colleagues with whom to spend my days is invaluable.  Today, we celebrated the birthday of one of my suite-mates.  Cards all-round, lots of laughing and joking throughout the day, and a birthday bundt cake.  

So that's what I want to share with you today:  the recipe for that birthday bundt cake, so you, too, can share in the warmth of wonderful co-workers.   And tell me what your workplace is like ... what's your favorite thing about your job???

Chocolate Bundt Cake
(from The Veganomicon)

1 3/4 c. brewed coffee
2/3 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
1/3 c. applesauce
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Spray bundt pan with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Bring coffee to simmer over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and whisk in cocoa powder until melted.
Coffee and cocoa powder
In bowl of stand mixer, combine canola oil, applesauce, sugar, and cornstarch.  Whisk until well dissolved.  Add extracts and slightly cooled chocolate mixture.  Add dry ingredients and whisk until combined.

Pour into bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes (until knife comes out clean).  Cool on rack for 20 minutes, then invert on plate or serving platter.  Sift powdered sugar over and serve!


  1. What a great combination of jobs Wendy--you must have superhuman energy though:). And the cake looks fab...

  2. Thanks for sharing you work life, that was a good read. It sounds like you've found a way to appreciate all the good things about your teaching career without getting too bogged down by the bureaucracy and other annoying parts. It sounds like your attitude also helps keep you from feeling overburdened.

    I retired a couple months ago after nearly 30 years as a government regulator. The day I retired, right after my party, I was driving home and I had a moment where I wondered if I was going to be losing part of my identity, since my career had been so big a part of my life for so long.

    I woke up the next morning realizing that all I had lost was the day to day drudgery, not any part of myself and I haven't looked back since! Having control of my life and my time is so liberating.

  3. Wow, Sandy! Talk about a great attitude! I'm glad you're enjoying your freedom. :)

  4. Zombie apocalypse? You must be wonderful professor. What a fun way to learn. And, BTW, my life is exactly like that clip. Except for the swimming pool, and the maid, and the butler, and the mansion. I do the laundry, though.

    Thanks for sharing the Bundt recipe. Cakes that are made with oil instead of butter fascinate me.

    ~ Krista

  5. This one is so easy, Krista. And I never even need to shop (since I usually have little single servings of applesauce in the fridge, which are just the right size). Incredibly moist and decadent.

  6. Wendy, I knew you were a professor, but wow, 600 students! That's amazing. I adore a Bundt cake. I make a gluten-free one that is delish. The oil seems to do the trick. Mine has rum instead of coffee. It was handed down to me by my mother, hence the rum. She wasn't a coffee drinker. ;)


    Avery aka Daryl

  7. I went to a community college so classes were smaller. I can't imagine the 600 students. You wouldn't be able to remember any of their names! But I'm sure they're not all in one class. I took government in high school, although I preferred regular history or geography.